• 49th Parallel
    Calling a movie “propaganda” is usually an insult. But making quality propaganda is a skill, and one well worth deploying when you are fighting the Nazis. In 1941, the British War Ministry approached Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for support of the then-failing war effort. Wanting to tempt the neutral U.S. into the fight, […]
  • 99 River Street
    There are worse things than murder. You can kill a man one inch at a time. Another of my recommendations, Kansas City Confidential, brought together Director Phil Karlson, Producer Edward Small and Actor John Payne in 1952. They re-teamed the following year to make another fine film: 99 River Street. Payne is compelling as […]
  • A Christmas Carol
    One of the most memorable adaptations of A Christmas Carol is a short, animated film of the same name. Made in 1971 by animation icons Richard Williams, Ken Harris and Chuck Jones, this is by far the most eerie and dark version of the much-filmed Dickens classic. Despite being condensed to 25 minutes, this […]
  • A Matter of Life and Death
    Many film buffs love to rank order films in best ever lists, straining and debating to argue which is #4 versus #3 or #7. I do not put myself through that agony, but am comfortable with more fungible judgments. In that spirit, I am quite sure than any creditable list of the ten best […]
  • A Time for Drunken Horses
    I remember the Kurdish area on the Iran/Iraq border as a land of stunning beauty and inordinate risk. No movie captures both realities better than A Time for Drunken Horses. Made by then-unknown Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi in 2000, it’s the first widely-released film in the Kurdish language, one of many virtues that help […]
  • Across 110th Street
    Blaxploitation films are often described as sloppily produced, overly violent, sexist, racist, and demeaning to their audiences. Those gibes definitely apply to many entries in the genre, but roses exist among the thorns, particularly when a film had a bit more budget than usual and drew on other genres in creative ways (e.g., Blacula, […]
  • Behind the Sun (Abril Despedaçado)
    Artistic concepts and projects can span the world. If Shirley Jackson’s classic American short story The Lottery could be said to have an Albanian parallel, it would be Ismail Kadare’s novel Broken April, which a French and Swiss production group, in alliance with some very talented Brazillians, turned into 2001’s Behind the Sun. The […]
  • Bend of the River and The Naked Spur **Double Feature**
    Nobody can hate like a good man, and maybe that’s why Jimmy Stewart was so magnetic and moving in the hard-bitten Westerns he made with Anthony Mann after World War II. Stewart was a huge star at the outbreak of the war, during which he served with distinction. When the All-American, gee-whiz nice guy […]
  • Body and Soul
    Many fine movies have been set in and around the boxing ring. Most of them borrow from the subgenre’s touchstone: Body and Soul. The hero of this 1947 classic is up-from-nothing Charley Davis (John Garfield), a scrappy boxer looking for a shot at the championship. Unfortunately, that means throwing in with the criminals who […]
  • Bonnie and Clyde
    Hollywood studios were in a rut in the late 1950s and early 1960s, struggling to cope with the rise of television, the loss of control of movie theaters after the Paramount case, and a widening cultural chasm between modern audience tastes and studio traditions. In desperation, the studio chiefs opened up filmmaking to a […]
  • Boomerang!
    The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict. 1947’s Boomerang!, based on a real-life murder case that was never solved, stands out among Hollywood’s many courtroom dramas due to its excellent acting, unusual plot structure and creative storytelling style. The crime that provides the basis for the movie occurred […]
  • Breaker Morant
    Arguably the best movie of Australia’s New Wave is 1980’s Breaker Morant. As the title character in Director Bruce Beresford’s movie, Woodward delivers a performance with such psychic weight and that it will stay in your mind and heart long afterwards. The story takes place in the waning days of the Boer War, where […]
  • Brief Encounter
    Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. Elsewhere I recommended In Which We Serve, the first collaboration between Noël Coward and David Lean. As their partnership evolved, Coward ceded full directorial control to Lean and the two men made a series of films (now available as a boxed […]
  • Brighton Rock
    The 2010 remake of Brighton Rock got mixed reviews, so I recommend discovering instead the 1947 original, which is both a fine character study and a solid piece of British film noir. Made just after the war by the Boulton Brothers, this story of razor-wielding gangsters was considered shocking in its day. Though a […]
  • Bullitt
    Steve McQueen had an incredible run of hits in the 1960s, which put him in position to start his own production company. Solar Production’s original six film deal with Warner Brothers eventually fell apart and only resulted in one film, but what a film: Bullitt. The first time through, what stays with most people […]
  • Callan: The Richmond Files
    Many Americans know Edward Woodward only as The Equalizer from television, but his career started long before that. Woodward was an extraordinarily gifted actor who was equally comfortable with classic Shakespeare plays, light comedies and grim dramas. Unlike some stage-trained actors, his dramatic skills didn’t wane when he made the move first to television […]
  • Canyon Passage
    Between making bettered remembered films, Dana Andrews starred in an underappreciated 1946 frontier yarn made in glorious Technicolor by an extraordinarily unlikely director: Black and white film noir master Jacques Tourneur! The result is an entertaining, highly original (if blandly titled) Western: Canyon Passage. The plot, set in mid-19th century Oregon, is not easy […]
  • Carnal Knowledge
    The period between the war and the sexual revolution was disorienting for many American men and women, as prior standards of sexual behavior lost their hold without a clear sense emerging of what would become the norms of the future. In this terrain, Jules Feiffer scripted an unproduced play about the sexual development and […]
  • Chariots of Fire
    Some Best Picture Oscar winner selections are immediately recognized as mistakes by discerning viewers (American Beauty, Crash, Forrest Gump, Gladiator), others seem plausible contemporaneously but the bloom fades from their rose over time (Around the World in 80 Days, Dances with Wolves, Gigi). What a pleasure and a relief it is to revisit a […]
  • Chiefs
    Chiefs was broadcast on CBS 30 years ago and like millions of other Americans I was glued to the set each night as its sprawling, multi-generational tale of law enforcement, small town life, racism and the hunt for a clever serial killer unfolded. The mini-series centers on three police chiefs in the town of […]
  • D.O.A.
    I have recommended The Turning Point, starring Edmond O’Brien and featuring Neville Brand in a small part as a vicious killer. For a change of pace, let me also recommend a film starring Edmond O’Brien, featuring Neville Brand in a somewhat larger part as a vicious killer: 1950’s D.O.A. D.O.A. has one of best […]
  • Deep Cover
    Many hip-hop music fans know the hit soundtrack of Deep Cover because it featured a pre-mega fame Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. In this recommendation, I want to make a case for Deep Cover as a movie. It was a modest money maker in 1992, but got a bit lost in the avalanche […]
  • Everything Must Go
    Raymond Carver penned a bleak, oblique, short story about an alcoholic husband whose possessions are scattered all over his front lawn, which leads passersby to assume mistakenly that he is conducting a yard sale. First time writer/director Dan Rush spun this unusual premise into a more extended story and turned it into a fine […]
  • Excalibur
    As a filmmaker, John Boorman really goes for it. He has an idiosyncratic perspective on the diverse material he films, and carries it to the limit. Sometimes this has led to abject disaster (e.g., the incomprehensible, pretentious and unintentionally risible Zardoz). But more often than not Boorman’s courage as a filmmaker has resulted in […]
  • Fiddler on the Roof
    Gifted filmmakers are able to delve into the particularity of one group’s life to illustrate universal human experiences, thereby appealing simultaneously to those inside and outside the group. That’s part of the transcendent power of 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof. At one level, the film is steeped in the particularity of Jewish villagers under […]
  • Flirting
    Adolescence includes aches (loneliness, alienation from adults, sexual longing) and joys (first love, treasured friendship and music). Few films have portrayed both classes of teenage experience as warmly and intelligently as the 1991’s Flirting. Due to an execrable U.S. advertising campaign, which misrepresented the film as a sniggering teen sex comedy from “those crazy […]
  • Get Carter
    How appealing an actor is Sir Michael Caine? Put it this way: While watching him play Colonel Steiner in The Eagle Has Landed, a lot of otherwise sensible film goers find themselves rooting for the Nazis. In the classic 1971 Brit gangster film, Caine’s likability and magnetism are in full flower, as he somehow […]
  • Gilda
    Rita Hayworth was a big singing and dancing star of musicals in the early 1940s, but the film that made her an international sex bomb (literally) wasn’t released until 1946: Gilda. The plot, which echoes Casablanca in a number of respects, concerns a love triangle in a faraway land, in this case, Argentina. Johnny […]
  • Great Expectations
    The great director Sir David Lean is remembered mainly for lushly coloured 70mm epics with big international casts, sweeping stories and long running times (e.g., Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India, Bridge on the River Kwai, Dr. Zhivago). But he had a fine career before those triumphs during which he made tightly constructed […]
  • Hangover Square
    Supplementing my recommendation of The Charmer, I offer another Patrick Hamilton adaptation, albeit one that departs more substantially from the original novel: 1945’s Hangover Square. The plot: In Edwardian London, brilliant, troubled classical composer George Bone (Laird Cregar) suffers fugue states during which he commits violent acts which he cannot recall afterwards. As Bone […]
  • He Walked By Night
    Crime investigation procedurals became popular after World War II and continue to be a staple of television and movies today. A fine example of the form with pronounced noir elements is 1948’s He Walked by Night. Normally, police detectives have substantial advantages over perpetrators. The typical violent offender is unintelligent, impulsive, minimally-skilled and ignorant […]
  • Hell Drivers
    Having recommended the movie that gave Stanley Baker his first break (The Cruel Sea) and one he produced and starred in once established (Robbery), let me fill in the middle by recommending the thrilling film that made him a star in 1957: Hell Drivers. The plot is agreeably simple. Baker plays Tom Yately, a […]
  • House of Cards
    After a gold-plated bollocking by Margaret Thatcher, political advisor Michael Dobbs had more than a few drinks and scribbled down two letters: F.U.. That experience planted the seeds of what became his acclaimed political novel about vile British politician Francis Urquhart, which was later adapted by BBC television: 1990’s House of Cards. Andrew Davies’ […]
  • I Never Sang For My Father
    Playwright Robert Anderson had a big Broadway hit in 1953 when he drew on his experience of young romance in Tea and Sympathy. He went back to the autobiographical well again with a 1968 play based on his family of origin. In 1970, Anderson and one of the producers of the play, Gilbert Cates, […]
  • I Walk Alone
    Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas had remarkably parallel careers. They both made their first film in 1946, quickly became huge international stars, and maintained their cinematic dominance for decades. Both were handsome, athletic men who were also intelligent enough to play parts with nuance and depth. Both ultimately broke away from the studio system […]
  • Impromptu
    Artistic stars of 1830s Paris are brought vividly to life in the high-spirited and entertaining 1991 film Impromptu. Directed by Tony-winning Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, the film stars Judy Davis in a bravura performance as George Sand. She spends the film avoiding prior lovers (including Mandy Patinkin as Alfred de Musset) and chasing a […]
  • In a Lonely Place
    To hell with happiness. More important was excitement and power and the hot stir of lust. Those made you forget. Dorothy Hughes’ bewitching and disturbing novel In a Lonely Place was thankfully re-issued by New York Review of Books in 2017. It very much recalls some of Jim Thompson’s darkest works, though she’s arguably […]
  • In Which We Serve
    Pour yourself a small gin or a nice cup a tea, stiffen your upper lip, turn off the wireless (radio, that is) and watch one of the best films ever released in a time of war: 1942’s In Which We Serve. Made almost single-handed by Noël Coward (with some directorial assistance from the legendary […]
  • It Always Rains on Sunday
    There’s a special joy that comes when you watch an old movie with no preconceptions because you’ve never heard of it and come away loving it. That’s the lucky experience I had some years ago with It Always Rains on Sunday. A big hit for Ealing Studios in 1947, it was forgotten in the […]
  • Last Orders
    How many movies have featured a group of old friends coming together and reflecting on their lives because one of their circle has died (e.g., The Big Chill, Husbands)? And how many times have Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, and David Hemmings portrayed British blokes like themselves who weren’t born with a silver […]
  • Layer Cake
    Let’s get meta: That’s Sir Michael Gambon sitting in the very chair where I wrote this recommendation of the film in which he and it appear: Matthew Vaughn’s stylish and hard-edged Layer Cake. Gambon plays wily drug kingpin Eddie Temple in one of the great British gangster films (which is saying something, they have […]
  • Margin Call
    Of the Wall Street movies made in the wake of the financial crisis, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, drew the most attention, awards, and audience receipts. But I think The Magnificent Martin was outshone by a lower budget film of a first-time writer/director: Margin Call. Made by J.C. Chandor in 2011, the […]
  • Nanook of the North
    I admire Robert Flaherty and Neil Sheehan for the same reason: Their persistence in the pursuit of creation. Sheehan’s Pulitzer Prize winning book A Bright Shining Lie was almost never published because he lost 8 months of work in a computer hard drive crash and was so depressed that he nearly quit. Flaherty shot […]
  • Napoléon
    In 1927, the days of silent film were coming to an end, but some brilliant directors sent it out in style. William Wellman’s Wings and F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise landed the first-ever Academy Awards, while in The Soviet Union Sergei Eisenstein’s October hit the screens. But a French film towered even over that mighty […]
  • Nightmare Alley
    Tyrone Power was one of most dashing leading men in Hollywood history and became a massive box office draw beginning in the mid-1930s. However, after many swashbuckling Saturday matinees, musicals, and romantic dramas, he longed to do something more weighty. He used his star power to convince a skeptical Daryl Zanuck to produce a […]
  • Onibaba
      When movie aficionados think of Japan, their minds typically turn to Akira Kurosawa. That’s understandable, as one could make a plausible case for him being the best director in the history of cinema. But Kurosawa is far from the only brilliant filmmaker to hail from the Land of the Rising Sun. Another is […]
  • Patterns
    The popular and critically-lauded Mad Men demonstrated that television is becoming the new American cinema for mature viewers now that movies in the theater are pitched more towards teenagers and young adults, particularly those in other countries who are not fluent in English (i.e., explosions and CGI are in, character development and dialogue are […]
  • Peter’s Friends
    One of my favorite Christmas movies is Kenneth Branagh’s Peter’s Friends. Sometimes glibly dismissed as a “British knockoff of The Big Chill” this 1992 movie is in fact superior in most respects to that film (which not incidentally was itself based on a better, little seen movie, The Return of the Seacaucus Seven). The […]
  • Pickup on South Street
    Many films have been set in seamy settings where everyone is on the make, believing in nothing and exuding cynicism until something comes along to drive one person into moral behavior (e.g., The Third Man, Casablanca, The Mission). Sometimes what makes the worm turn is romance, sometimes it’s an attack of conscience, sometimes it’s […]
  • Robbery
    If you are one of the many admirers of the 1968 American classic Bullitt starring Steve McQueen, you will almost certainly enjoy the British film Robbery. Released the year before Bullitt, it’s a partly fictionalized account of the astonishing 1963 heist of a British mail train by a gang of bold and crafty thieves. […]
  • Room at the Top
    Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy was adapted into a 1951 hit movie called A Place in the Sun directed by George Stevens and starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. The tale of a young man trying to rise from the working class to wealth in both his career and his romantic aspirations was […]
  • Scandal Sheet
    The directors whose work I have praised repeatedly on this site are all household names except for Phil Karlson. He rarely got decent budgets and spent much of his career at studios and in positions that weren’t worthy of his talent. Yet he managed over the years to make some highly compelling movies that […]
  • Scrooge
    Scrooge is deservedly a beloved Christmas movie. Like the not dissimilar It’s a Wonderful Life, it came by its standing as a beloved film democratically: Long after it was released generations of people fell in love with it on television. And with very good reason. The heart of this film is Alastair Sim, whose […]
  • Seance on a Wet Afternoon
    Most movies fit into particular genres, with plots that in at least some respects are recycled. There is nothing inherently wrong with this: The same thing could after all be said of almost all of Shakespeare’s plays. But just as The Tempest is refreshing because of its novelty, so too are films with unique […]
  • Seven in Darkness
    TV movies usually are not very good, but ABC’s Movie of the Week was an exception to the rule. To complement the other films from this series I have recommended, let me endorse the entry that kicked it off in 1969: Seven in Darkness. The plot is at one level entirely stale: A group […]
  • Shattered Glass
    Before Johann Hari, before Jayson Blair, there was a journalistic fraud named Stephen Glass who conned readers and fellow journalists at multiple respected outlets, most notably The New Republic. Buzz Bissinger wrote an sterling account of Glass’ rise and fall for Vanity Fair magazine which writer/director Billy Ray subsequently translated to the screen in […]
  • Slap Shot
    George Roy Hill and Paul Newman scored two mega-hit, crowd pleasing films with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting (Recommended by Johann Koehler here). When they reunited in 1977, the commercial temptation would have been to more or less repeat themselves. Being highly creative artists, they instead challenged many of their […]
  • Strange Impersonation
    Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: The only plot elements in Strange Impersonation that are not utterly predictable are completely preposterous. But everything else is right in the under-appreciated Anthony Mann’s 1946 noirish tale of two formidable women locked in intellectual and romantic combat. The film was made just after […]
  • Sweet Smell of Success
    Many films deservedly flop at the box office because they simply aren’t any good. But a subset of gems meet the same fate because they are too far ahead of their time, violate audience expectations, or both. On the honorable list of the highest quality box office failures of all time, an unforgettable 1957 […]
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings
    Hollywood has made many beloved films about baseball from Field of Dreams to The Pride of the Yankees. 1976’s The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings is a lively, enjoyable movie about America’s pastime that like the era it portrays is often forgotten today. The plot: In the waning days of the […]
  • The Bishop’s Wife
    The only people who grow old were born old to begin with. If you were asked to recall a 1947 Christmas movie that was nominated for a best picture Oscar, you would probably come up with the famous Miracle on 34th Street. But remarkably, it was only one of two Christmas films so honored […]
  • The Charmer
    The movies have been good to British novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962), who might otherwise not be remembered at all even though he produced some good work and claimed some significant admirers before depression and heavy drinking dissipated his gifts. Hitchcock’s Rope, two versions of Gaslight, and Hangover Square all remain eminently watchable […]
  • The Claim
    Mark Twain said that “A ‘classic’ is a book that everyone praises and nobody reads”. I suspect that Thomas Hardy’s novels fall into this category. Admittedly, I think that because my dear mother suggested that I read “The Return of the Native”. After I finished it, I asked her why she recommended such a […]
  • The Cruel Sea
    To compliment my recommendation of The Long Arm, let me endorse an even better film featuring the wonderful Jack Hawkins. In the high point of his career as a star (although he would go on to have a great career as a character actor in upmarket productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, Zulu, and […]
  • The Damned United
    I’ve only been to a few English football matches in my life, and like most people who didn’t grow up with it, I don’t find it as engaging as do the locals. Yet one of my all-time favorite sports movies is about English football, which is a testament to the skills of everyone involved […]
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Graffiti messages tend to be clichéd, obscene or vapid, but once every few years I get a smile on my face when I see “Klaatu barada nikto!” scrawled on some random bit of fence or wall. It’s a critical line in Robert Wise’s 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. In […]
  • The Deadly Affair
    Alec Guinness so inhabited the role of John le Carré’s master spy George Smiley that even the author said he could no longer think of one without the other. But Guinness was not the only fine actor to essay the role. James Mason also had his turn, even though for copyright reasons the character […]
  • The Frightened City
    In nearly a century on this earth, Herbert Lom had a long and varied acting career. Born in Prague under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he achieved screen immortality as the Chief Inspector whom Clouseau slowly drives mad in the Pink Panther films. But before that did excellent work in many high-quality films, most of which […]
  • The Front
    Hollywood has always been fascinated with itself, so it’s not surprising how many movies address the “blacklisting” of suspected communists in the 1950s (Guilty by Suspicion, Trumbo, and Hail, Caesar! to name only a few). Among the best of these is a 1976 film made by a director (Martin Ritt), screenwriter (Walter Bernstein), and […]
  • The Gunfighter
    Westerns became darker after the war, in some cases translating aspects of the urban film noir mood and style to the wide-open spaces. The signature westerns of this type were the eight that director Anthony Mann made starring Jimmy Stewart, including my recommendations Bend of the River and the Naked Spur. But other filmmakers […]
  • The Hill
    Sidney Lumet’s brutal, gripping 1965 movie The Hill opens with a solitary figure laboring up the man-made torture device that gives the film its title. In one of Oswald Morris’ many mesmerizing crane shots, the man collapses in the North African heat and then the camera begins to move slowly away, off into the […]
  • The Hospital
    Over the decades I have worked in hospitals, I have seen countless movies that draw on the drama, humor, joy and frustration that happens every day in the medical world. It’s a tough call, but if pressed to choose my favorite of such films it would be 1971’s The Hospital. The magnificence of the […]
  • The Intruder
    It is pretty hard to imagine a Hollywood Producer sitting in a meeting in 1962 and saying “I want a daring and powerful film about racism in the civil rights era…get Roger Corman and Bill Shatner on the phone pronto!”. Yet the B-Movie king and television’s most beloved overactor did indeed make such a […]
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    Have you ever seen a movie that stuck in your head for reasons you couldn’t fully explain? A film that you eventually realized had a much bigger impact on you than it seemed to when you were sitting in the theater? That was my experience of 1943’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. […]
  • The Limey
    Fresh off his success adapting the Elmore Leonard novel Out of Sight, Steven Soderbergh partnered with screenwriter Lem Dobbs in 1999 to produce another strong film that feels like an Elmore Leonard story: The Limey. The plot: A greying but tough as nails Cockney career criminal known only as Wilson (Terence Stamp) finishes his […]
  • The Little Foxes
    It’s challenging to engage moviegoers in stories in which most of the characters are awful people. Even directorial talents like Mike Nichols and Martin Scorsese can’t consistently pull it off. But it’s a superlative cinematic experience when it works, as evidenced by William Wyler’s 1941 classic The Little Foxes. The plot: As the 20th […]
  • The Long Good Friday
    British film director John “Frenzy” Mackenzie directed another of my recommendations, Unman, Wittering and Zigo, but will be best remembered for the thrilling, brutal gangster classic, The Long Good Friday. Many American viewers struggle with the opening scenes of this 1980 film because the slang comes fast and some of the Cockney accents are […]
  • The Man Who Laughs
    A woman has seen my face, and yet may love me. When people recall Universal Studio’s famous run of monster movies, they generally think of the fine films that began appearing in the 1930s (e.g., Dracula, Frankenstein, et al). But those talkies are actually the second generation of what producer Carl Laemmle began in […]
  • The Naked City
    Disruptive innovations in technology have been one of the defining aspects of the short history of cinematic art. The introduction of sound in the 1920s, followed by color in the 1930s, followed much more recently by computer-generated imagery — all of which had profound creative implications — are the ones with which most movie […]
  • The Offence
    The James Bond films made Sean Connery an international superstar, but presented him few challenges as an actor. In the midst of Bondmania, desperate to avoid typecasting and to take on more substantial roles, Connery began collaborating with Director Sidney Lumet. This resulted in one financially successful and entertaining film (The Anderson Tapes), but […]
  • The Prowler
    This week’s film recommendation is an unusual, disturbing film noir that has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years: 1951’s The Prowler. Made by left-wing artists who were being harassed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, it’s a dark take on class resentment, sexual repression, and the ruthless pursuit of the American dream. Many film […]
  • The Ruling Class
    I stand outside myself, watching myself watching myself. I smile, I smile, I smile. It takes courage to make a movie that defies all conventions and challenges the audience. Sometimes, indeed most of the time, the filmmakers fall on their faces. But every once in awhile a group of wildly innovative iconoclasts create something […]
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel
    Leslie Howard was a multi-talented actor/director/producer as well as a true patriot who was taken from us too soon in 1943 when he was murdered along with 16 other defenseless people by the German Luftwaffe. Can a film star be so appealing that the audience will root for a die-hard one-percenter who is battling […]
  • The Shooting Party
    I have a weakness for British art that echoes French art, such as Anthony Powell’s Proust-esque Dance to the Music of Time. In a similar vein, allow me to recommend a British film that recalls Renoir’s Rules of the Game: 1985’s The Shooting Party. The plot: Not long before The Great War will descend […]
  • The Sniper
    Edward Dmytryk was a talented filmmaker whose career and life were severely damaged during Hollywood’s red scare. As one of the Hollywood Ten, he refused to testify to the House of Un-American Activities Committee and was sentenced to jail. He fled to England, where he made some high quality films including another of my […]
  • The Special Relationship
    Screenwriter Peter Morgan and actor Michael Sheen ventured into the life and career of British Prime Minister Tony Blair three times, with tremendous success. The Queen is by far the best known of these films, but this week I recommend the conclusion of the trilogy: 2010’s The Special Relationship. The film begins with a […]
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
    What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. So says […]
  • The Stars Look Down
    The last remaining British coal mine recently closed, bringing a way of life to an end. My Welsh ancestors were among those who worked in this industry, giving movies about life in the pit a special power for me. The movie about British mining towns that Americans are most likely to recall is the […]
  • The Sting (Guest Review)
    My friend Johann Koehler of the London School of Economics is a criminologist, an innovative thinker, and a lover of movies. I asked him to contribute a review of one of his favourites, The Sting. Over to Johann: Fans of Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s pairing in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid […]
  • The Stunt Man
    If God could do the tricks that we can do, he’d be a happy man. The late Peter O’Toole signed on to many over the top, unconventional films (no small number of them when he was intoxicated). This resulted in him headlining some legendary stinkers (e.g., Caligula). But it also landed him plum roles […]
  • The Turning Point
    Recognizing that post-war audiences were gripped by more realistic, torn from the headlines crime stories, Hollywood producers were giddy over the Kefauver Committee’s investigation of organized crime. Many Americans were transfixed by the hearings, both because they provided their first glimpse into the workings of the Mafia and because they were on this new […]
  • The Untouchables
    Many classic TV shows have been made into dreadful movies, but Brian De Palma came up aces in 1987 when he made The Untouchables. The plot: Naive treasury agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) comes to Prohibition-era Chicago to do battle with bootlegger, murderer and king of the gangsters Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Realizing […]
  • The Web
    When I was in graduate school, I shared an apartment with a fellow student who was also a film buff. One night we were watching television and saw a commercial announcing that our cable provider would soon start carrying a channel called “American Movie Classics”. We sat there mesmerized as the advertisement trumpeted that […]
  • Thief
    The decade of the 1970s in American film witnessed the continuation of the auteur-driven creative revival that began in the late 1960s (see my recommendations The Kid Stays in the Picture and Bonnie and Clyde for details) as well as the beginning of the blockbuster era led by Jaws, Star Wars et al. But […]
  • This is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper
    It’s challenging to make compelling movies about crimes when almost everyone knows the culprit and many of the facts of the case from the beginning. Yet ITV and producer Jeff Pope took the risk in the aughts to make a trilogy of docudrama miniseries about notorious British murders, with great success. The first has […]
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
    If I were BBC Director-General, and had been granted only 24 broadcast hours to make the case to the nation and its elected officials that my organisation was capable of greatness, I would immediately fill the first 315 minutes of my schedule with 1979’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This is what a television mini-series […]
  • To Have and Have Not
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good example of how recycling characters and plot from a wildly popular movie can led to tedious viewing. An infinitely more successful effort to rip-off a prior cinema classic is Howard Hawk’s To Have and Have Not. Perhaps the greatest film ever produced via the old Hollywood […]
  • To Serve Them All My Days
    The classic Dickens novels usually end with the central character finally finding a proper place in the world after years of hardship and misadventures. R.F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days takes the opposite approach of having a character with a tragic backstory find his proper place on the very first page, and […]
  • To Sleep With Anger
    Many films structure their narrative around the power of visitors to disrupt overtly settled lives. Sometimes the results are comic (e.g., The Mating Season), sometimes they are dramatic and heart-warming, (e.g., The Bishop’s Wife) sometimes they are sinister (e.g., The Intruder), and sometimes they are a combination of all these things, as in the […]
  • Traffik
    I saluted the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy mini-series as the summit of BBC programming. The 1989 mini-series Traffik is in the same league. Most Americans remember Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning adaptation of this series, but far too few have seen the British original, which at just over 5 hours allows much more character and plot […]